RIM's future turns into analyst battleground

Some analysts say that RIM's BlackBerry 10 platform is the real deal and will garner interest. Other observers see the OS as another WebOS.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The opinion of Research in Motion's BlackBerry 10 devices and their success is becoming increasingly split among analysts. On one side are analysts who are relatively upbeat about BlackBerry 10 and those industry watchers that see the platform as doomed to fail.

This battleground over RIM is playing out almost daily. On Monday, CIBC analyst Todd Coupland said RIM shares are worth $17 a share. RIM is currently just below $12.

The catch here is that RIM shares have already had a great run---all based on BlackBerry 10 enthusiasm. Coupland said:

Details of BB10 are being leaked by carriers and developers alike. True multi-tasking with messaging and apps, one thumb navigation, swipe to type keyboard, improved speedy browser, competitive hardware, and 100,000 BB10 applications available on launch day are all encouraging to the “Productivity” and “Flow” vision RIM is looking to promote itself as and this should re-ignite Blackberry fan support. Early feedback has been generally positive. We believe the early reviews of BB10 devices are strong enough to keep and grow the current subscriber base.

Coupland's bottom line is that investors should buy RIM shares, which have nearly doubled in a few weeks. Also: BlackBerry 10 devices are almost here - but how will you manage them? | With BlackBerry 10, RIM must pull off its greatest trick yet | RIM preps enterprise roadshow, chafes at iPad Gartner prediction



Coupland's note follows Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, who upgraded RIM to a hold from an underperform. Misek said:

Preliminary results from our quarterly handset survey indicate developed market carriers have a much more positive view of BB10 than we expected. With greater carrier shelf space and marketing support, we now believe BB10 has a 20%-30% probability of success. While the likelihood is low, the potential reward is high.

National Bank analyst Kris Thompson is also upbeat and has urged investors to buy RIM shares ahead of BlackBerry 10's launch.

And then there's the flip side of the RIM argument. Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelblum said:

We continue to believe BB10 has a low chance of success. While some of the new features on BB10 seem innovative, we had a similar reaction to Palm’s WebOS when we saw it at CES in ‘09. Ultimately we believe BB10 is too late, and subs continue to shift to competitive devices.

Gelblum added that RIM will continue to lose enterprise subscribers.

Macquarie analyst Kevin Smithen sees RIM as a coin flip in many respects. Smithen added:

Our carrier checks indicate that North American carriers are each likely to take one or two BB10 devices and that the company is likely to benefit from channel fill in the February and possibly May quarters. Given low levels of RIM channel inventory, the company could post upside to our above-consensus 8 million smartphone units in the Feb. quarter. As a reminder, RIM sold 11.1 million units in the Feb. 2012 quarter with a stale product.

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